A frosty -26C greeting today! It seems mother nature decided that it WAS winter after all and gifted everyone with a good amount of snow this past weekend. We were blessed with a foot of snow here which took us all day to dig out from. You may all appreciate that the photos today are all of greener days, and hopefully they can bring you some warmth today. This week I decided to feature another one of my very special ladies. She is aptly named "My Precious" as she most certainly is a very precious gift. A heart of gold, and shining bright spirit of love, My Precious was born in 2017. For those of you who don't know, I am the only one who picks the names, and each year I choose a naming theme, as a way to help me narrow down the potential name choices for our babies. In 2017, the theme was Lord of the Rings. I like to say that my nerd comes out when I name my herd. I take naming each of our babies very seriously as I want to ensure that the name is a good fit to the personality. Sometimes it has taken me weeks to make a choice, and on occasion the name changes a time or two before it sticks and they become registered. With Precious, she was one of the hard ones to name. Nothing fit. I even researched names, scouring through Tolkien's works, looking for the ONE name that fit her personality. In the end, her name was chosen based on her heart. The ONE name, for the sweetest goat. MY PRECIOUS! She is just too sweet for words! From the moment of her birth, she has just always had a way of drawing people to her. She stares deep into your eyes, and I swear a warm loving feeling will overcome you. Spend some time in her presence and it will start to envelop you in a cocoon of love. It sounds weird, I know. There is something about these goats though that really does need to be experienced first hand. There are some things in this world that there just are no words for.
Each and every kidding season there is at least one baby born that captures my heart right away. In 2017 I actually had MANY born that ended up becoming an important part of what my herd is today. Precious has always been very special goat to me for several reasons, but the main fact is that she is the last daughter of our dear Delilah (Geordon's favourite goat, now retired), and she inherited her mother's sweet, loving nature. I think in any great breeding program, it is always the goal to try to improve on the next generation by breeding wisely. As the main focus of my breeding program is for temperament, I am VERY proud of how both Precious, and her twin brother Gimli turned out. I actually kept Gimli as well and he is one of my herdsires - also with the sweetest temperament. I could easily say that these two are pretty close to the perfect example of what we try to breed for here. Precious is calm, sweet natured, easy mannered, and this year she freshened (had babies) for the first time and was a fantastic and calm milker! It may seem odd to many to have a dairy goat breeding program focused on temperament, however in my line of work it makes perfect sense. How do you find the perfect animal partners to work with you to help people feel better? Well, if you can't buy them - I tried this for years, it was very expensive and there was no guarantee of temperament - then you attempt to breed them! By selectively breeding for the desired physical and emotional qualities, we actually better our chances of raising well balanced animals. The way we raise our animals here also makes a big difference. We begin conditioning them from the moment they are born. We work diligently to socialize each and every one of them. We nurture their unique personalities so that they can shine true and authentic for who they each are. We honour each animal here for their choice to take part in any work or activities we do here. It allows us to work with animals that have been raised from birth knowing no fear or distrust of humans. It allows us to raise them to have a voice, have a choice, and an opinion. This creates a very unique animal to make a connection with. Again - something that must be experienced to understand. Now don't get me wrong, I adore all goats. I think they are hysterical on all levels. In my line of work though, it takes a very special kind of goat to go into some of the places we do. I wouldn't ever even imagine taking some of my "non therapy" goats to work with me. That's a nope. ;)
So getting back to Precious, and that amazing heart she has. I think we all know someone who just LOVES everyone they meet. Do you know the kind of person I mean? The one who as they walk down the street they offer hugs and smiles to everyone they pass. Precious is that kind of goat. As she goes about her day, when she encounters people, she takes the time to ensure they are noticed. I will try to be clearer here. Precious is direct - but in a very gentle way. She makes eye contact, but in the most innocent and unassuming way, that it always feels comfortable. She approaches timid people slowly, and as soon as she is close enough, she will begin to lick them. The impact this has on most people is quite incredible to witness. You'll see a softening occur and within no time she has won over yet another heart. You see, each goat in my herd has a "gift" of sorts. Almost like a special ability. Precious exudes love - that is her gift. She is pure love. My opinion is that Precious has the ability to help people to feel what true unconditional love feels like. For some, that may be something that they are experiencing for the very first time. It is very powerful and can be so transformative for some individuals. For me, it is incredible to watch as Precious cracks the hardest of people. Those soft, sweet, blue eyes of hers just seem to melt away any hesitation or reservations someone may have had about hanging out with a goat for a bit.
This past summer, Precious gave birth to a beautiful set of twins. Both her son and daughter were strikingly beautiful, but they both also possessed her rock solid, sweet and loving temperament! To see the qualities I so strongly admired in Precious's own mother Delilah, pass on again to another generation fills me with so much pride for the breeding program that I have put together. Precious, like her mother before her, and her daughter after her, will continue to work with people in different and often extraordinary ways. Now that the Sky River herd is 8 generations into this work, it just continues to grow and evolve more and more.
In the coming weeks, we will be launching a brand new pilot program at Huntsville High School where we will be bringing the goats to the students to assist in anxiety and stress relief during exams. We are thrilled and excited to have the ability to bring our herd to some pretty exciting places. It allows us to reach many more people that may normally miss out due to mobility or health restrictions. Now that we will be cracking into some new territory in offering supports to those in need at schools, I am sure we will discover even more magic in how the human/animal connection can heal and rejuvenate us, and continue to have a lot of fun along the way.
… … …
And just for you Gemma, with love, THE END : )
I am delighted and excited to write today's Goat of the Week post. This week will feature one of the youngest herd members, and one with a bit of a different story and upbringing. For anyone who has met her, they can all see how much she loves her "mommy", and it is also very apparent that she is loved and spoiled rotten by that "mommy". For anyone who works or volunteers here, she is very much thought of as a spoiled brat who listens to no one. Today's GotW is a goat that I candidly call my "daughter", my bottle baby Yara. She has big attitude, thinks no rules apply to her and instead makes up her own rules as she goes. Oh, and in case you didn't know before, Yara is the CENTER of the universe, and we are all here to serve her. You've all been informed...lol ;-) At only seven months of age, Yara is already beginning the training steps into becoming a full working member of our "house goat" gang that work with me during the winter months as part of my mobile therapeutic practice.
Yara was born as a quadruplet (set of 4 girls!) on June 8th, 2019 to Sky River Meadows B'elanna. At four days of age, B'elanna decided that 4 babies were too much for her to manage and she rejected Yara from her litter. As much as I tried to work with B'elanna, she would have nothing to do with Yara any longer. It was at this point that I made the decision to transition Yara to a bottle and move her into my home. If you think that this sounds like a fun idea - let me STRONGLY caution you! Having a goat living in your house is no joke. Goats are in fact incredibly intelligent and easy to house train. However, they have more energy than you can imagine - almost boundless. Pair that with their desire to climb, insatiable curiosity, and mischievous nature = potential recipe for disaster. Yara was only 4 days old when she first made it onto my kitchen table. Soon she could make it from there onto the counters.... you get the idea. Houses also have a lot of something goats love to eat: PAPER! All the tastiest kinds of paper! Newspaper, receipts, bills, lists, paper towels, etc., and Yara's personal favourite - toilet paper. She would bite holes in the roll so that you would roll out swiss cheese toilet paper, rendering it completely useless. Thanks Yara. Also, if you choose to have a goat live in your house, you had best be prepared to take it with you everywhere. Goats are herd animals and need to be with their herd - even if two legged. In order to raise Yara as balanced as possible, I had her spend 50% of her time during the day with the herd, and the other 50% (which included overnight) indoors with me. This was for her own safety, as without a mom to protect her in the herd she was vulnerable to bullying from herd mates and could become injured, or even killed. Yara often had to go to town with me if her feeding times coincided with something I had to do. As I am ALWAYS busy, Yara went with me pretty much everywhere for the first 4 weeks of her life. Raising a bottle baby goat is just like raising any other baby. Seriously - everything will be in their mouths! Goats explore the world with their mouths, and this is why popular belief is that goats eat everything. That is actually incorrect though. Goats do eat a great deal, and often things they shouldn't, BUT the majority of the time they are only trying to discover what something is and if it is edible.
Baby goats also do not like to sleep alone. Apparently my stuffed goat Hank that I gave Yara to sleep with was no substitute for me. It literally only took Yara two weeks to work her way into sleeping with me in my bed. Let's just say she has a way of manipulating me into giving her anything she wants lol. But, Oh my goodness! The sounds of her little snores! My heart, seriously melted each and every time she would nuzzle up to my ear to fall asleep. How could I refuse her? I was helpless against her. Those soft, warm, brown eyes. I am not ashamed to admit that Yara did sleep with me - in my bed - until she was 10 weeks old. Likely not a healthy practice, and not one I recommend either. I am happy to say that although a difficult separation for us both, Yara now lives full time in the barn with the herd and has consistently since she was 12 weeks old. She does still come indoors though. That is actually essential as she is in training to replace her great grandmother Maisie in a few years. Yara actually comes from an interesting line of house goats. Starting with Maisie, down to Yara's mother (Maisie's grand-daughter) was also a house goat with an interesting back story that I will save for her own GotW post in future weeks. So Yara is the third in her line to have been raised indoors and be housebroken, which is kind of cool in my opinion. The goats I have that work indoors are usually good indoors for an hour before needing a potty break. Accidents do happen, but they are rare and actually are surprisingly easy to clean up and deal with. Small risk for the amazing gain people get having the goats come visit them in their homes or elsewhere. Yara has been doing very well and in recent weeks has been going along with me to my visits to Community Living in Parry Sound. She seems to love the work we do as much as I do. Yara's future in therapeutic work looks very promising making her extra special.
Sky River Meadows is just finally opening it's doors to the public in a big way this year. We will be launching new and exciting animal programs and so much more. Yara will have a very special role through all of that. As she matures and grows her personality will continue to change for a while yet. Until a goat reaches full maturity, they change their mind a lot. Yara some days is rather obstinate to anyone but myself. I call it her "you're not my mommy" mood. She is terrible when she in this mode and makes it challenging for my team to get chores or other routine work done. She is often out of the pen and just roaming around. Why? Well because she wants to, so I let her lol. I know, it doesn't help, but I seriously can't help myself. I love this little goat so very much! She has a nickname that is pretty pathetic actually. It started out as just my "Fuzzybum". It has evolved into "Fuzzybumbumbum" Don't ask me why. Some things just can't be explained and that is also true for people who spend ALL of their time with goats. Some of my goats have some pretty funny nicknames. One thing is for certain. Yara has it GOOD. She gets everything she could ever want. She also gets regular pampering - including scratching between her toes and under her dewclaws daily - all of them! She also expects daily armpit and face scratches to go with them. *sigh* Can I come back as one of my goats in my next life? Better yet, I want to come back as Yara. She is the center of the Universe after all ;-) Yara is one of the best gifts 2019 blessed me with. I can't wait to see how far her and I can grow my dream into reality, this year and every year.
With a new year and a new decade upon us, I am filled with excitement for the endless possibilities that lay in front of us all. 2020 is sure to be a big year for us here as we launch our full programming and move full steam ahead. For that reason I have chosen one of my oldest goats for this weeks GotW post. She was the first Nigerian Dwarf Goat born at my farm, so she has been with us on this journey almost from the very beginning. Cassi has the distinction of being the very first registered Sky River Meadows baby. She is a daughter of our herd Queen Bonnie, and our herd King Gigalo. A "Princess Royal" in everything she does, including attitude. Do not let that beautiful baby face of hers fool you. Cassi is as fierce as they come in my herd. She has a mean streak and is easily the toughest fighter amongst my does. Those piercing blue eyes of hers stare straight into your soul. When Cassi works with people, she has a tendency to cut straight to the heart of the matter to draw attention to whatever issues need working with. Her direct nature, no BS attitude and stunning beauty all make Cassi a force to be reckoned with here at the farm. She also is seemingly fearless and delights in taking on any dogs that wander too close and are fool enough to turn their back. I once witnessed all 75 pounds of her hit a 120 pound dog so hard, the poor dog was sent somersaulting. Cassi is a force indeed!
Cassi was born in the Spring of 2012. At the time our herd was still quite small (about 10) and we were still uncertain of the direction the farm was headed. Cassi was one of twins that were the first Nigerian babies born under the farm name. She and her brother Orion were both quite flashy, with stunning blue eyes. Being born to our herd Queen Bonnie, I had my hands full trying to socialize these two babies. Bonnie would hide them from me or play keep away by not letting me catch them. In the end though, time and patience always win out. Cassi is very particular about how she gets touched and where. When being brushed, Cassi actually prefers it if you just firmly hold the brush tightly and she will brush herself. It would seem that us poor lowly humans just can't do it the right way to suit her. She does tend to be quite rough with herself though so I prefer she do it her own way as well. She does appreciate being clean and looking her best. She is also one of a few goats who I can say "ask" to have their hooves trimmed. When Cassi sees me making the rounds doing hooves, she always seems to "get in line" to be one of the first ones done. I guess there is something to be said for a good pedicure. She does seem to appreciate a good hoof trim though.
I often think that the trimming of their hooves must feel weird to goats, but perhaps it is also solidifying their connection to the earth. As my goats work for a living to earn their keep, ensuring they remain in good health is essential. We all need a good solid foundation on which to work with. Goats are no different. When we have a solid foundation and are grounded in our day to day lives, we feel better and perform better. For those who are unfamiliar, goats are cloven hooved, meaning they have two toes on each hoof. The hooves of goats in captivity need to be trimmed regularly in order to keep them balanced on a good foundation. For prey animals (animals that are food for other animals in the wild) having a good foundation with the earth is essential to survival. Prey animals ability to "flight or fight" at a moments notice is literally the difference between staying alive or not. Their very ability to read the energies around them in order to survive depend on it. For prey animals, the alternative to being ungrounded is to become food for another animal. That's a hefty price to pay for sure. What powerful teachers prey animals become when you observe the lessons they share. We can learn a lot about being grounded and living in the moment just by sharing space and spending time with them. For Cassi I certainly feel that is the case. I often think of her as one of my most "grounded" goats. Funny thing about Cassi though - she isn't that friendly. She has no interest in being a therapy goat most of the time and really only comes forward for people who have a deep need to get a direct message - usually about being grounded and present in their bodies. Cassi is blunt and to the point, very much the way a horse is in Equine Facilitated Learning. She seems to have no patience for BS, and wants people to be feeling their best authentic selves immediately. She gets her message across very directly as well. She will rub her head, butt, paw and sometimes even nip to get her point across. She is so direct in fact that I have needed to step in to intervene so that she didn't get out of hand in communicating. She is not afraid to step up her game to be sure her message is heard, and I am always there to try to interpret the best I can. She always moves on quickly after sharing with someone. She is a very important goat after all, and has other important things to be doing ;)
Now that Cassi has reached maturity, she doesn't have much to worry about. Retirement suits her. She is also dealing with a health issue that requires most of her focus and energy to get well. Cassi has a few daughters in our numbers that will take her place amongst the breeding females, and Cassi can just focus on spreading her wisdom to our clients and getting well. When visitors come to the farm, most of them will get to meet Cassi. She seems to want to meet everyone that comes to visit. Most will just be met with her icy stare, but a few may be lucky enough to brush her. Many will be met with her vigorous head rubbing against their knees and even a few others may get a playful nip from her. Be warned if you wear rubber boots to the farm! Cassi for some reason really detests certain kinds of rubber boots. I have had to leash her to stop her from head butting people right out of their offensive boots! LOL! Like I said, that baby face of hers is super deceiving and allows her to get close enough to people just to prove she's not just a pretty face. Beautiful blue eyed wee devil she is. A spitfire, just like her mamma.
OK, so clearly this is not a goat. For the last GotW post of 2019, I thought it would be fun to share a story from another herd member here. Out of all of the "non-goat" animals here, horses not included, none have quite as big a personality as Amelia does. She certainly leaves an impression on people! She also isn't what most people expect, which I love so much about her.
Amelia as she is called, is a 2yr old Irish Dexter heifer. I bought Amelia from a friend in the early spring of 2018 when she was just a baby. It was my intention to bring her home when I moved to the new farm. With more space it would be much easier to introduce a cow to my goats - most of which had never seen a cow, with the exception of the show goats. Due to a few delays I did not get to bring Amelia home until she was close to a year old. I had my work cut out for me, making friends with this one! She came with very pointy horns and a VERY big personality! She was quite shy, and had not been handled much, so we had a long way to go to bring her to the social butterfly she can be known as now. She was young though and I've worked with much more challenging critters than this one, so was confident she would work out.
Amelia was raised with a herd of goats, so I knew that she was going to be fine living with my goats. The biggest challenge would be how to convince my goats to willingly live with a cow. In the end it really didn't take much. The older goats were much more reserved and took longer to warm up to her, but the babies were quick to discover how much fun she was to climb and jump on top of. I am sure by now you are wondering why on earth would I want to add a cow to my goat herd? Turns out, these feisty little cows are incredibly protective! Where we live we also have a healthy coyote and wolf population. It never hurts to have back up in your herd - especially when you can't have a livestock guard dog, which I can't. So we use alternative protection animals. It turns out that Amelia is FIERCELY protective of her herd and she takes it very personally each and every time I remove any animal from the farm for any reason.... which happens a lot lol. I swear that she is telepathic and knows the day before we have an off farm event. Amelia has a bellow that could raise the roof off the barn in alarm when she chooses to use it - and she does choose to use it - often! We discovered Amelia's ability to launch and project her voice over vast miles when she first moved here and we would take the goats out for a hike. She would bellow and buck, ripping all around the pasture until we returned her goats. She would work herself into quite a tizzy actually that it became apparent that I was going to have to start bringing her with us, just so she'd calm down. That was great fun for a few weeks. Amelia was happy and having fun ripping around the fields, and was content to just follow along with us all. After a couple of weeks though, Amelia began to have ideas of her own. All of a sudden one day while on a walk with the herd, Amelia decided to go off on her own adventure... It happened a few times more... We trained her to walk on a lead after that. Chasing a belligerent bovine all over the Muskoka bush is not as much fun as it sounds. Oh the adventures Amelia has had!
On occasion, as does happen, gates may not be as secured as they appear, or Amelia has an incredible ability to open gates. She does get out somehow though, and when she does, she wants to ensure everyone knows it! We live on a very large property with the herd separated to a few places at different times of the year. She will run around to ALL members of the herd letting them know she's on an adventure. She also visits my front door and the barn monitors so that I will be sure to know she is out and about. She then likes to run down to the neighbours farm, to taunt and bellow at the cows that live there. It is quite the sight to see a miniature cow that is easily 1/3 the normal cow size, frolicking around owning her world. Such sass! I stopped chasing Amelia down after the third escape. I know she isn't going anywhere and she is safe. She might love an adventure, but believe me - only short ones. Amelia also loves food, water, napping, brushing, pampering, shade, etc, just as all pampered animals do. She also loves NOT running. So even though she gets out, I don't worry. Once she is done being naughty she is easy to catch and put where she belongs without much fuss.
Along with her huge personality came a set of very pointy horns that I knew we would have to deal with as well. With handling and "taming" of the wild beast that Amelia can be, I suffered many bruises and pokes from those horns and was well aware of how dangerous they could be. Even with the helpful use of pool noodles, there was no dulling the point of those horns when Amelia chose to use them against you. In order to protect all of us, our team, and our clients, for safety reasons the decision was made to have Amelia's horns surgically removed, which we did in March of 2019. The surgery went very well and she has fully recovered from the ordeal. Although she has a much different look about her now, and she still occasionally uses her phantom horns against me, we are all much safer for it.
Amelia literally now spends her days eating and sleeping, waiting for visitors to come admire her or maybe even to brush her. In the warmer months, she is out at pasture with her little sister Elsa who joined us in November 2018. She is no longer living with the goat herd, but spending her time looking after the mini donkeys we also have, and waiting for a time when we will have more of a job for her to do. During the winter months, Amelia is up at the big goat barn and makes up the loudest part of our welcoming committee there. Not a bad life for a cow on a therapeutic farm, even if it is only me who says so. :)
On today's edition of Goat of the Week, I introduce everyone to Han Solo. I chose Han for a couple of reasons - the nerd side of me is going crazy as I haven't yet had a chance to see the new Star Wars movie.... The main reason I chose Han though, is due to Christmas being just a couple of days away. Not everyone loves the holiday season. For some people it is the hardest time of the year and each day is a struggle. Everyone will have their own reasons for these difficulties or struggles through the holidays. I myself struggle in many different ways this time of year, and I know so many other that do too. Now what does a goat have to do with all that? Well Han is different in a special kind of way, which is why I have chosen him for this "Christmas Edition" of GOTW. I thought he would be the perfect goat to open a discussion about the ways we can all struggle to cope in a world where we don't always feel we belong. The holidays tend to magnify those feelings and make one feel even more alone. For that reason I feel this is the perfect time to introduce Han to everyone. In a herd as large as ours, everyone has their "role". For Han, that role is to be our resident a**hole. I know that sounds harsh, but I assure you it isn't. Here is where I am going with that...
Han was born in 2015, in the year that my naming theme was Star Wars. It was apparent to me very early on that Han was a highly sensitive individual. He was very skittish, and would tense up the moment anyone tried to touch him. At the time it was early on in my studies and I wasn't as aware then as I am now as to the struggles of highly sensitive individuals - I am also now very aware that I too am one of these highly sensitive types. We can sense and feel the emotional energies of others, and sometimes those emotions can cause confusion and overwhelm us, especially if we are unaware that the emotions we may be feeling, may not in fact be our own, but that we are picking up the emotions of others. Han being so sensitive like this, made him virtually impossible to "tame". He is not like any of our other goats that are friendly and curious. He is not. If you approach Han he will run away and knock you down if he needs to in order to get out of your way. He is incredibly tricky for me to catch for his regular maintenance and care, but over the years I have learned the best way to "deal" with Han. Like our Queen Bonnie, Han is only handled by me. The trust we have developed in our relationship is based in mutual respect. Han knows that I will do what needs to be done and let him go back to his life of quiet contemplation without any extra fuss. You could say we have an understanding with each other. I think he knows I am a similar creature.
The sad reality for a goat that is not easy to manage is often to end up on someone's plate. Fortunately for Han, he was born on a farm where a herd was being created that would need someone like him in it. I am grateful that I am able to offer a place for those who would normally suffer a much different fate. My herd is as large as it is in a way to attempt to make a representation of what our own society or community is like. For Han, he is often judged unfairly for being the way he is. I have heard visitors that come here refer to him as the "grouch", the "mean one", the "angry one" etc. None of those labels are fair or any indication of who he really is. Nor is me referring to him as the "Resident A**hole", but that literally is his role. He is here to represent those "types" of people in our society. Han is not grouchy, mean or angry all the time. He does not like to be touched, many people are the same way. There was an interesting point in time last summer that came about a month after we moved to Woodfield. One day while out on a herd walk we stopped to lay in the grass and let the herd graze. All of a sudden, Han was at my side. He just stayed there right beside me, not moving. As a slowly reached out to touch him, he let me. Even more shocking, he let me rub him all over! I even got to take a selfie with him. (thank heavens otherwise no one would believe me). For about a month after that day though, Han continued to interact with people and let them touch him. I thought perhaps he had determined to like people afterall, but nope! After those few weeks, it was as if he decided I tried it and didn't like it, and he went back to being the Han we've always known. Hey, at least he gave it a shot! ;)
So back to my reason for choosing him for this weeks post. I think that as a society we are so quick to judge others. We forget that we should always remember to be kind and compassionate first, because we have no way of knowing what someone else is going through. At this time of the year especially while so many struggle. I think it is even more important to remember to always reach out in kindness to others. Gentleness goes a long way. No one is perfect. We are all human. We all make mistakes. We all have things hiding in our closets. We all have regrets. We all lose things we love. We all grieve. We all feel too much sometimes. When Christmas rolls around, please take the time to think of those in your life that may be struggling right now and reach out if you can. We all need love. Love in all forms.
Merry Christmas to everyone from all of us at Sky River Meaodws. We wish you all an abundance of health, love, light and happiness in 2020.
This week on Goat of the Week, I introduce Honeynut to everyone. Honey (as she is most commonly known as) was not born on my farm, but at another farm in the Muskoka area. She is the daughter of our beloved Jose who recently passed away. From what I was told by her breeder, Honeynut's birth was a tough one. She had her umbilical cord wrapped a few times around her neck and was unable to come out without assistance to untangle her. I remember seeing her for the first time when she was just a couple of hours old. The hair on her neck showed the evidence of how long that cord had been wrapped around her neck while she grew in utero. The hair around her neck stood out funny for a long time showing those marks. She is lucky to be alive, and I know I am lucky and blessed to have her. I acquired Honey on an exchange deal with a fellow Nigerian Dwarf Goat breeder. A baby of hers, in exchange for a baby of mine. (saves money * and enables goat friends into getting more goats * without costing actual money * so hubby's can't complain * ;D ) I bonded with Honey very quickly after her birth, which is not common for me with animals not born on my farm. I actually have to work to stop myself from falling in love with other peoples animals in order to spare myself the inevitable heartbreak if and when they say "no, you can't take my *blank* home with you". LOL I get it. With Honeynut I bonded quite quickly though. It was likely due to her traumatic entry into the world. Either way, I am not afraid to admit that I held my breathe until I was told that I could have Honey in exchange for one of my Jose doelings at home. I continued to hold my breathe until her registration paperwork arrived, proving to me that she was mine. That was a very happy day for me :)
Life with Honey was great from the moment she arrived home. As she was dam raised I had to wait until Honeynut was old enough to come home with me. I visited with her as often as I could until that point, so she was bonding with me as well. I was concerned that she would have a tough time fitting into the herd here as she was an outsider coming in, but she did really well making fast friends amongst the babies of that season. I was still competing in goat shows that year, so all of my babies were properly weaned from thier mothers - unlike now, where I just let the moms decide when it is time to wean. Honey came to me at the end of my time competing with the goats, so I only put her into a handful of shows the summer of 2016, and she did come and compete at the Royal Winter Fair as well that year, however I can't remember exactly where she placed. I remember it was one placing behind her twin sister Willow, near the back of the lineup though. She did not place well. She was very gangly and leggy as a baby, a late bloomer you could say. She did have that beautiful golden colour that I loved so much on Jose. She also carried his silver moonspots and his very sweet and loving temperament. Also like her dad, she doesn't have a ton of smarts about her. She is beautiful, loving and sweet though, … and MILK!!! Holy moly can this girl milk!! Last year as a first time mom, Honey blessed us with quadruplet doelings! An amazing blessing indeed! Due to how busy we were with moving the farm, I never bothered to train her to the milk stand last year and I allowed her to wean her kids when she chose. This past season Honey blessed us once again with quadruplets! 2 girls and 2 boys. So at the age of 3, Honeynut has given me 8 healthy babies! This year I did decide to train her to the milk stand. Honey took to milking like a pro. She never kicked or fussed, not even once. She has always been so trusting of me, I guess that was also something she was just cool with me doing. Besides, I was much gentler than her brood of hard bunting babies, and even offered soothing massages with being milked which she enjoyed greatly. :)
As this was the first year of milking Honey, I really can't say how much milk she produces yet. As she was still nursing two of her babies, I only ever took a small amount from her each morning for a couple of months this fall. One thing is for certain, Honeynut is an incredible mother. In 2018, with her first kidding, she gave birth while I ran to the store. She literally dropped the fourth kid as I came back to her. I've only ever owned one other "sneaky birther" before, and that was Ash Donna. She was notorious at popping out triplets while your back was turned for a few moments. This year Honeynut once again did us proud by giving birth to quadruplets again, with ease. Both years I have not needed to intervene or supplement the babies along side her. She does need to consume a large amount of grain while she is in milk, but I have no issues with giving her anything she needs. Honeynut does have the type of body that can eat endlessly and never gain an ounce. Like a racehorse, she requires extra nutrition, especially at certain stages, especially during lactation. Honey has no health issues and has always had strong feet and legs.
Honey is kind of a goofy, playful soul. She plays and runs often while we are out walking with the herd. When we go hiking in the deep bush, or adventuring as I like to say, Honeynut is quite brave and adventurous. She enjoys climbing and often scares me by hanging out WAY too close to the edges. My mantra while adventuring with adventurous goats is to "trust the goat". I am always grateful for the health of my herd and ability to do the things that we get to do together. It keeps us all healthy to stay active. Being able to explore and connect in nature everyday is essential to all of our well being. I see the evidence and positive effects every single day not only in the people that come to visit us, but in the goats and in ourselves. As we are now in the snowy months, it becomes increasingly difficult to get the goats outside. The sunshine will always draw me out though, and therefore I drag the goats out as well. In the winter months the herd runs up and down the length of the driveway a couple of times before eventually they run back into the barn to their thick warm bed and abundant hay feeders.
Honeynut doesn't have a very "In your face" personality like so many others do. She is very friendly and sweet though, and often comes forward to spend time with people. She LOVES to be groomed and will stand for a long time for someone who is brushing her. She also appreciates a good bum scratch and has the most adorable tail wag whenever she gets one. I think that Honey has one of the most expressive faces in the herd. To me is seems she makes a face in reaction to things, rather in a human way. I've been lucky a few times in capturing some of her faces in photos, and share some of them below. As she is still so young, I am sure much of Honey's story is yet to be written. As she matures I am certain she will continue to do incredible things here. For now I will continue to be dazzled by her willingness to take part in all of the activities we do here, and her seeming absolute trust in me. I am grateful to her for being here, and for already contributing so much to the herd. She's pretty special, my Honeynunny <3
This weeks edition of Goat of the Week is all about Anakin. This cutey pie has a different story in some ways. I like to refer to Anakin as one of my "dirty little secrets" in the sense that his purpose in being a part of my herd is very personal to me and my work, which I will elaborate on in more detail shortly.
Ani's story began on my birthday in 2015. It was a typical beautiful sunny day in August and his mom Cassi decided that me sitting with her, waiting for her to give birth to her babies was how I would spend my birthday - which was OK by me! What a gift to be able to receive!. Cassi gave birth to two beautiful babies that day - Padme and Anakin. These two beauties were complete polar opposites of each other. She was black with white markings and blue eyes, he was white with black markings and brown eyes. She was reserved, quiet and shy, while he was very boisterous, mischievous, playful and so very sweet - to me anyways.
Anakin is what is called a wether. That is the term for a fixed male goat. The Sky River therapy herd actually has eighteen wethers within it. These males have a couple of very specific job functions within the herd. Fixed males are often herd protectors and they let me know when the females are receptive to being bred. The most important job they have though is to be the great connectors with people. Due to being fixed, they become less interested in sex drive and more interested in connecting. They are generally more affectionate, loving, playful and personable.
The reason I refer to Anakin as one of my "dirty little secrets" (and I have more than one) is that his place in the herd was earned due to my love for him and my need to have him in my life. As an adult wether he is not very friendly to most people, rarely comes forward to interact or connect with anyone, and he really just prefers to eat while the others work. He is not one of the herd protectors - even though I suspect our Queen, Bonnie has been trying to get him to step into that role for some time now. He continues to refuse. He is often the first goat to spook over any little sound. He is very sensitive and still very attached to his mother Cassi. He is rarely far from her and he gets very jealous of his younger siblings. I like to describe Anakin as a dreamer - much as myself. He often appears to me to be daydreaming and I have been able to amuse myself for hours just watching him go about living his life in such a carefree way. Due to his love for munching all day long, and not a ton of ambition for activity, he is also now rather chubby. Perhaps it is due to the fact that he knows he is very special and important to me, and also that he is quite spoiled, but it always seems to me that Anakin is smiling. His presence gives me strength and stability. Knowing he is there helps me stay connected to myself and grounded. Anakin, and a few others who share this role, very well may have the most important job in the entire herd - and that is to hold space for me, making it possible for me to do the work that I do. These special souls, my "dirty little secrets", help me to stay present, focused and connected. In some ways I feel that these special ones are an extension of myself, allowing me to deepen my connections with all things. Many of my personal support animals also bond, connect and develop relationships with other people. Anakin it seems, is quite content to spend his time only deeply connecting to me and no one else. His arrival on my birthday was a gift, just as each and everyday that I have shared with him has been. I am so grateful to him for the love and support that he gives to me so freely. He ensures that each and everyday I feel loved, needed and so supported. What a blessing, and a special gift indeed. <3
This week I am pleased to tell everyone the story of Mystique. She is lovingly known by a few nicknames here, but most will know her as Mysti. She is often one of the first goats noticed due to her very unique, and dramatic colouring and extra long shaggy hair. It is safe to say that every colour a goat can have in their coat, Mysti has it in hers in spades. Nigerian Dwarf Goats are known for having many different colourings and patterns to their coats. Mystique's cool spots are a genetic trait that was passed to her called "moonspots". What I personally notice first about Mysti more than any other of her physical characteristics, is her crystal clear, sky blue eyes. I've lost many hours staring into their depths. For anyone who has shared space and made a connection to Mysti you will know what I speak of when I say that she has an "old soul" about her. Not everyone in life has an extraordinary "out there" kind of story. For Mystique, parts of her story are inexplicably intertwined with that of her twin sister Pipsqueak. Those parts of her story most of you may already know. I am happy to talk about the Mysti that everyone does know, but to also tell you all about the Mysti that most people don't get to know.
In 2014, I received word that there was a group of goats in Quebec that were in need of rescuing from a bad situation. A couple friends and I launched a rescue mission and headed to Quebec in a minivan to bring these goats back home. What a fun adventure! :) One of the goats that joined my herd was Taylorside's Coconut, the sweetest little goat I have ever met, and who will always remain so special to me. It turns out that little Coconut was pregnant, and late that summer, she gave birth to Mystique and Pipsqueak. There was little I could do to prepare for their birth as I was unsure of their due date. When that magical day did arrive though, I was grateful to be home and to be there to assist Coconut in delivering them into the world. Mystique was born at a healthy "normal" weight for a Nigerian Dwarf Goat at just over 2 pounds. Her little sister Pipsqueak however, weighed in at only 10.2 ounces and seemed too tiny to even be able to survive. She had other physical malformations in her front legs as well that appeared at birth would impede her ability to walk normally. If this story was about Pip, I would go into further detail, but for now I will leave Pip's story for her own time. This is Mysti's tale :)
Summer of 2014 was a big one for us as far as kidding seasons go. We had 32 babies born to us that summer, which is the highest number of births to date on our farm. Imagine for a moment - 32 baby goats! Socializing them was a daunting task that required numerous volunteers to be on hand just to let them out of their pen and into the yard to play. Although Mysti and Pip were the last babies born that season, Mysti didn't waste anytime in letting the older babies know that she wouldn't tolerate ANY bullying of her little sister. What a fighter Mysti was! I swear she spent the first few months of her life fighting every battle of hers and then fighting all of Pips battles for her afterwards. Not that Pip wasn't capable of fighting her own battles - believe me! Mysti has just always been there, taking core of things so she has never had to.
Like most of my herd back in those days, Mysti was also paraded around to goat shows as a way for us to try to promote the breed and raise awareness as to what we were trying to create here at the farm. Let's just say that Mysti was not a fan of goat shows. She went, she placed, she had a miserable time, and I decided she didn't need to do that anymore. Trying to show a goat that does not want to be shown is not fun, and I can think of MANY other things I'd rather do with my time than to wrangle a screaming Mystique around the show ring to make her look good to the judges. Besides, I had plenty of goats in my herd that WANTED to be at shows, so 2015 was her last time in the ring.
As a way of trying to give her another focus besides fighting all the time, I decided to breed her. Perhaps if she had babies she would find a new focus, and settle down into being a Mom. Well, that didn't work either. I have tried to breed Mystique unsuccessfully for 3 complete breeding seasons now. I have exhausted everything in my arsenal beyond putting her up for an entire month with a smelly buck companion - not a good option for a therapy goat! Another breeding season is right around the corner and I'm not counting her out yet. Mysti possesses a few qualities that I would like to add into my breeding program if she were ever willing to cooperate. Fingers crossed that next spring we may see babies out of her yet :)
So what do the goats that don't have jobs in the show ring or having babies do here at Sky River Meadows? Well, that's where the main therapeutic herd comes in. We currently have 49 goats in our therapeutic herd. The majority of them have no other job but to connect to people, make friends and give unconditional love and support. Mystique is one of these amazing souls. She is often observed as the quiet watcher of people. She is well known for a certain expression that she often wears, which also happens to be one of her nicknames of Resting *****face - which is meant in the most loving of ways. Mysti is anything but the hard expression she often wears. She is soft, sweet and very affectionate. However, make no mistake - Mystique is PICKY about who she spends time with. You may get to share space with her for a few moments or she may lie down and invite you to lie with her for a snooze, or even more than likely not - she will ask you to scratch her butt. Mystique definitely wins the award for the itchiest butt in the herd. I do think that is due to the crazy hair she insists on growing each season though. No matter what connection you get to make with Mysti, it is a gift, pure and simple to just share space with her.
It is interesting preparing to write these Goat of the week posts. It gives me an opportunity to really reflect back on the life of our dear herd members, and to truly put to words what their lives each mean to me. While passing through countless photographs looking for just the right ones, I get to reminisce and smile. The thing that stood out for me the most about Mysti's photos - in almost every single one of them you'll see Pip is never more than a few feet away from her. I can't tell you how much that touches my heart. The dedication in which Mystique has lived her life in service to her sister has inspired me many times. It reminds me that we don't all have the same purpose or goals in life. That sometimes, we choose our own path, even if others may not agree. Above all we have to be true to ourselves, always striving for our own authenticity. Mysti reminds me to always be proud of who I am no matter what. Thanks Mysti :)
I am going to really enjoy telling this week's Goat of the Week story. All of the goats in my herd are special, however there are certain goats that stand out more to me personally than some of the others. Each person that comes here will leave having made at least one goat friend. Maisie is one who stands out for me the most because if I was to describe which goat in my herd would be considered my "best goat friend" - it would be Maisie hands down. (No offense to my human bestie - you know I love you too xoxo) Maisie and I have been through a lot together and she has an extraordinary story, that I am so pleased to share with you all.
Maisie was born on a cold morning on January 11, 2012. She was born at a very special place called Haute Goat. At the time, owners Debbie and Shain were on a farm in Campbellford, ON. (This wonderous place is now located in Port Hope, ON.. I highly recommend checking them out and booking an incredible experience. https://hautegoat.com/)
Maisie and her older twin brother (who they called "Boo") were an unexpected surprise for Debbie and Shain. Fortunately for Maisie and her brother, their early arrival didn't impede their ability to thrive and grow, and as Debbie takes such wonderful care of her animals, they were always safe and warm. Fortunately for me, I was already in contact with Debbie as I had purchased another doe - Maisie's older paternal sister Carmela just a few months prior. There was a specific personality type that I was seeking for my breeding program, and from all of the herds I visited with, the goats at Haute Goat were particularly calm, with easy going temperaments. The three foundation does for temperament in the Sky River Meadows herd, ALL came from Tripping Billies lines. They are; Tripping Billies Carmela, Tripping Billies Loo (Maisie), and Tripping Billies Delilah. They are all truly beautiful souls, that we have Debbie and Shain at Haute Goat to be grateful for. Each and every generation down the line has remained true to the solid, calm temperament that these girls brought to my breeding program. Oh, and better yet - MILK!!! All three of these girls are now retired from breeding, showing and milking, but each one of them gave me over 2L of milk daily which is pretty incredible coming from a little goat!
I first saw a picture of Maisie when she was only a few weeks old. I can't speak for love at first sight amongst humans, but I can say that for me it truly was love at first sight of wee Maisie. MISCHIEF - right from the moment we got her home, and she really never stopped. Her intelligence was apparent right from day one as well. She was so tiny when she arrived that I was too frightened to put her with the herd, so of course I moved her right into the house ;) Maisie quickly made friends with our dogs, and then quickly took over the household. The dogs learned quickly to be wary of Maisie as she could pack a hard, quick wallop with a head butt. Even my Dad's poor dog Daisy learned the hard way when she was just a pup and Maisie just a kid. They were virtually the same size, but Maisie won. To date, Maisie is one of three goats in my herd that I say will take on any sized dog. She is fearless.
Maisie has earned a lot of distinction in my herd over the years. The most notable for me is that she was the first goat that I housetrained. It took three days. That was it. Shocking no? I've learned more since then and now know you can actually housetrain a goat inside of twelve hours, or 3 repetitions if they are smart enough. Maisie would scratch at the front door with her hoof to go out, if she needed to ask to go out. She never had an accident in the house once she knew what was expected of her. I was blown away with the ease in which it took to train her. Fast forward that ability to not go potty indoors to today, and voila! You have a goat that can now do house calls. For me it was a breakthrough that may have fast-forwarded my dream of opening a therapeutic animal farm for my animal assisted therapy practice. If anything, realizing that I could train a goat to go with me anywhere was the fuel I needed to fire my dreams. I immediately changed the focus of my studies to get me closer to my dream, and began taking Maisie everywhere with me, including even to University (that's a story for another time). She may even be in a grad photo taken of me 3 years later, but again, a story for another time. :) To this day, Maisie still enjoys going for a ride, and is always up for an adventure.
Maisie, like most goats, will try to scare you with how quickly they can become ill. Maisie has kind of made a career out of trying to die on me. She tests my abilities every single winter, with random bouts of pneumonia. She has also undergone a few surgeries the last few years to deal with some health issues. She grew a tumour on her side that we had removed and analyzed - fortunately came back benign. She also underwent dental surgery to remove her teeth due as they were loosening and causing all kinds of problems for her. She is better able to gain weight now, and actually manages to eat just fine. We intervene where necessary to give her the extra her body needs. Her one downfall to no teeth is that she can't scratch herself without her teeth. She has learned to expect full body rubs from everyone she meets. She also LOVES to be groomed and is willing to stand for as long as someone is willing to brush. Her lack of teeth make her pretty comical, as there is nothing to keep her tongue in her mouth. It is often hanging out, especially as she runs :)
Maisie has some incredible strengths and she shows amazing resilience. She has encountered pretty much any number of frightening things, and she just takes everything in stride. Honestly, I get more stressed out than she does when we are asked to do something. I think Maisie thinks she is a comedian. She will do things sometimes just to get a reaction from people. She also loves to dress up and has worn some impressive costumes over the years. Maisie has also always been my best teacher for training someone on how to milk a goat. Over the years, Maisie has likely taught hundreds if not a thousand people to milk - most of the children. A highlight of Maisie's career was the time she was featured on a YouTube channel called The River and Wilder Show! Check out the video below
As incredible as Maisie is in all things she takes on, I think her biggest gift is in her ability to connect directly to people's hearts. Those beautiful ice blue eyes of hers stare directly into your soul. Maisie has an uncanny ability to know exactly who needs to see her when we go into a residential home, hospital or hospice setting. She is always respectful and quiet, allowing those she visits with to be comforted by her presence and soft coat. Watching Maisie work touches my heart in ways nothing else ever has. It is a gift to be able to share her love with others as well. I am hoping this ability and gift that Maisie has passes on through her genetics. I currently also have Maisie's grand daughter B'Elanna, and great-grand daughter Yara in training to help us in our important mobile work.
In the new year Maisie will turn 8. Her time with me has been so special and we have learned so much together. I can't wait to see where the next bunch of years take us. I just know for absolutely certain - without Maisie, there would be no Sky River goat magic! She is my muse <3 Through her, all of this has become possible. To my Miss Maisie Moo XOXO
This edition of Goat of the Week is a sad one for me to write. There is no other goat more prominently in my mind these days, so he is the only choice for this week's edition. I am honoured to be able to share his story with you all.
Looking back, I don't remember the original circumstances that brought Jose to me. I remember that there were a group of bucklings imported from the USA, and that for whatever reason the people were unable to keep them. I was lucky to be one of the first to pick amongst these bucklings. There was something special about him, I could tell even just from the pictures. We were even able to pick his name. As he came from New Mexico, we wanted something that suited. Although we settled on Jose right away, the rest of his name took some time. He was almost Jose Jalapeno (if Geordon got his way he would have been!) but in the end we settled on No-Way Jose.
Jose was a couple months old by the time he finally was able to come home to us. Right away he won us over with his sweet nature and silly antics. Jose was incredibly playful and was always looking for someone to chase him. He even loved jumping on the trampoline in his younger days.
Jose always had a very un-buck like personality. He was sweet and cuddly, and enjoyed being brushed. Not many will appreciate the smell that breeding male goats have. It is not an odour that is easily removed, and is not the kind of smell you want to wear as cologne. Intact male goats have some amazing abilities, one of which is the ability to shower in their own urine. This smell drives the lady goats crazy! Jose was no exception. Although he was cleaner than my other boys, he still smelled just as bad as the rest. Jose was always a complete gentleman with his ladies. The trouble was, that sometimes the breedings that I hoped would happen with Jose, sometimes didn't, Jose was a lover and not a fighter. He would much rather cuddle and play than get into serious fights. For this reason, my golden boy was a little tricky to breed at times. Some of my females are a little rougher and tougher than Jose would prefer. There were a few times over the course of his life that I was unable to breed Jose to the mate of my choosing - because he was AFRAID of them! A perfect example of this was when I tried to breed Jose to my finished champion doe ASH Donna. Donna head butted Jose and no matter what I did to try to intervene, he was having nothing to do with her. He decided the best place to be was to hide behind me. He may have even screamed a few times when she tried to hit him again lol. She also proved that she had no interest in his "make love, not war" philosophy, and was happy to wait for a rougher, tougher kind of buck.
Over the years, although there were a few breedings we weren't able to accomplish with Jose, we did accomplish many wonderful breedings with other does. There are a few of his sons, and many daughters out there carrying on his lines. We are saddened that we do not have a son of Jose to carry on his genetics here. We do however have a few of his daughters in our herd. His daughter Honeynut has proven to be a wonderful mother and has given birth to quads 2 years in a row. Jose has a few younger daughters in our herd that haven't been bred yet; Hermione, Nymphadora and Arya will all carry on after him.
Back when I was still showing goats, a couple of Jose's daughters did quite well in the showring as Junior does. Sky River Meadows Asia won Jr. Reserve Champion AOP at the 2013 Brooklin Spring Fair. Sky River Meadows Neveah won Jr. Reserve Champion Nigerian Dwarf Goat at the 2013 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Jose's son Sky River Meadows Hades also won a Grand Champion Nigerian Dwarf at the 2014 Eastern Ontario Buck Show in Delta, ON. Jose lost to his son Hades in that ring, placing second behind him. That was the same year that Jose completed his Championship legs, earning him the status of Permanent Champion. He won 3 out of 4 rings at the 2014 Eastern National Buck Show in Delta, ON. I had hoped to get more of his offspring into the show ring, but I have not had the time to show my goats for a few years now. Maybe one day we will again!
The last few years of Jose's life were spent enjoying the good life with his "bros", waiting for the special time of year when all of our boys have work to do. Jose's temperament was so sweet that he was quite fearful of many things. I will always miss his voice as he was a very vocal boy. His way of hollering out whenever anything scared him always made me smile. Jose was a beautiful boy, with the most amazing coat. What he did not possess in brains and braun, he more than made up for with his good looks, perfect conformation and sweet disposition. It was an absolute shock and tragedy that took him from us so soon. Jose will forever be missed. March 24, 2012 - November 14, 2019 RIP Jose.